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Unemployment falls in most states

Unemployment rates fell in a majority of states last month as improved economic conditions spurred hiring.

The Labor Department said today that 34 states and the District of Columbia reported their jobless rates fell in April. Six states reported higher rates, while 10 saw unemployment hold steady.

That marked an improvement from March when 16 states and D.C. reported declines in unemployment, 22 saw increases, and 12 had no change, according to revised figures.

South Carolina’s rate fell to 11.6 percent in April, from 12.2 percent in March, marking the largest monthly drop of any state.

After cutting their work forces to the bone during the recession, companies are starting to boost hiring as their sales and profits improve.

Nationwide, employers added a net 290,000 job in April, the most in four years, the department reported earlier this month. The U.S. unemployment rate, though, rose to 9.9 percent as hundreds of thousands of job hunters — feeling more confident about their prospects — resumed or started searches.

Even as the employment picture is less bleak in many states, and the nation as a whole, many economists predict it will take years for the job market to get back to normal. A normal nationwide unemployment rate typically hovers around 5.5 to 6 percent. It’s going to be a long slog because economic growth isn’t robust enough for companies to ramp up hiring and quickly drive down the jobless rate.

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